Thursday, June 23, 2011

Macca book review with bonus trivia

There seems to be a relatively common (but mistaken) perception that triathletes are arrogant and egotistical, but unfortunately 'I'm Here To Win: a world champion's advice for peak performance' by Chris McCormack will probably not be able to change that.

As a self-proclaimed huge boxing fan, Macca seems to think he is some kind of Ali of Ali'i Drive (the latter refers to the road in Kona where the finish line of Ironman Hawaii is located). He just loves to play the minds of his competitors ("I created mental dossiers on every one of my rivals", he writes), and has employed Dr. Susann Kräftner (a psychologist specializing in mental illness) as his mental coach for eight years.

If you're not really into triathlons or mental cases who perform these races for fun, don't worry: you may safely skip this book and save yourself some time and money. Although 6-time Hawaii Champ Mark Allen shouts "YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!" in the Foreword, you really don't - unless you're a Macca fan like me. It's not that great a book really, for various reasons:

  • First, the book is filled too much with tedious information, like Macca's Season Statistics (flight miles accumulated, countries visited, days away from home) and swim/bike/run training miles for each year (although he thinks miles don't matter and shouldn't be obesessively counted). 
  • Second, Macca's juvenile confrontations with Normann Stadler and Faris Al-Sultan, which he refers to as 'War', should disgust rather than interest most people. Macca explains that he wanted his competitors to to think he was crazy, like Liston did with Ali. It should go without saying that talking aggressive trash about former Ironman champions in public is an odd strategy for a pro athlete, who after stating his goal was to win Kona seven times, had then failed to win the race for five years. The way Macca shamelessly describes how before 2007 season he "scared them both to death" and "smashed Faris, smashed Normann, and smashed everybody" truly sounds like psycho behavior to an outsider. What's worse, he goes on to add proudly: "I even got an e-mail from Faris' mother, which I've kept, asking me to please leave her son alone." Macca writes that "My wife Emma was getting concerned with me" - well probably most triathletes were, although some media people seemed to love all this.
  • Third, there are some photos showing Macca hanging out with celebrities, for example with boxing legend Shane Mosley, and beautiful actress Cindy Crawford. Why are these photos included in a book about triathlon, is anyone's guess. Vanity?  

My favorite part of the book is the short section honestly describing how Macca failed once again Ironman Hawaii 2004 (pages 75-6), although he had won the races of same distance in Australia and Roth earlier that year. Suffering from cramps, Macca had stepped into a sponsor car with nine miles to go, thinking he would get a fast easy ride back to the transition area. Then he saw who else but Mark Allen in the car (he was now a commentator and a coach), telling him they would be sitting right there, taking their time to watch the race. After spending a few minutes in the air conditioned car, Macca feels better already, but he has been disqualified already for accepting help. Then this agegrouper named Christian Sadowski walks past them injured, covered in blood and road rash. He was accidently hit by an official race motorcycle, but is determined to finish. He says hello to Macca and Mark, but refuses any help that would make him stop. Then this brave dude carries his smashed bike all the way (about 11 km) to T2, changes into his running gear, and finishes the race just before the 17 hour cutoff time. The race coverage on TV that year was all about Mr. Sadowsky, and other ordinary people who became heroes that day. Macca hit the bottom that day: "I've never felt so small."

I'd like to finish this humble review by gratefully presenting the following 20 items of Macca Trivia, which were randomly picked from the book while I read it:

  1. Macca's training gadgets: None - he doesn't use any heart rate monitors, Garmins or bike power meters, and likes to train without a watch.
  2. Most important training advice: Listen to your body. It's ok to rest. 
  3. Favorite affirmation: 'Embrace the suck'. 
  4. The person who (at least nowadays) decides Macca's race schedule: His wife Emma-Jane.
  5. The world's best sports drink: Coke (Thomas Hellriegel saved Macca's 2005 Ironman race by telling him to drink coke when he was near collapse - Macca had been advised to stay away from stuff like that by 'nutrition experts').
  6. The supplement he can't live without: Q10 (more because it has become a pre-race ritual, than for its effectiveness).
  7. Macca's favorite food: Spicy wok food with olive oil. And chocolate.
  8. Sodium intake during a race: Recommended. "Take sodium throughout the bike stage. You'll need it."
  9. The word that shouldn't be used to describe Macca's approach to training: Fluffy.
  10. How many times has Macca been injured so badly that he couldn't keep training or finish a race since 1996: Zero. 
  11. Who Macca regards as "the greatest female triathlete to ever walk the planet": Michellie Jones, who invited Macca to come and stay in America around the Olympic year 2000 (for some reason there is not a word about Chrissie Wellington, Paula Newby-Fraser, or Natascha Badmann in the book).
  12. The biggest limiting factor in endurance racing: Fear.
  13. How you can beat fear: Create folders in your brain.
  14. Who can become the next triathlon superstar: Terenzo Bozzone.
  15. The number of DVDs on Muhammad Ali Macca owns: About 50. (Macca thinks Ali is the greatest athlete ever.)
  16. The reason Triathlon Australia called Macca's home after he had won the junior category of his first triathlon in 1992: To find out if he had done the whole course of the run (Macca's 31-minute 10K run seemed suspicious to them).
  17. Percentage of career events won: 76% (finished on the podium 88%).
  18. Number of Ironman distance victories: 12 (more than any other male - Paula Newby-Fraser has double that though).
  19. Macca's number of Ironman distance races under 8 hours: 4.
  20. Will Macca race in Kona again: Probably yes, as he writes: "I suspect that one day...I will throw my hat in the ring again. I have bled too much on those lava fields to simply walk away." 
One more thing: if you ignore the mind games part, this is a actually yet another good endurance sports book this year. We've already enjoyed solid running books by Marshall Ulrich and Dean Karnazes, and then there is the cycling book about RAAM, called Hell On Two Wheels, which I might get next.


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